Restaurants: Pub rockers

Queen's Roger Taylor famously wanted to break free ... maybe owning his own Surrey pub will do it. Photographs by Darren Regnier

Before I set out to eat in Surrey it might have been helpful to dig out an old Genesis album to find some fitting lyrics, but I could no more face it than erase from my memory the words to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody". The rockbroker belt around Guildford is heavily populated by those responsible for cringe-making Seventies anthems: Ringo Starr here, Mike of the Mechanics there, someone from Status Quo over the hill, and for every one of them, there are even more of their equally guilty cohorts living that bucolic life of recreational four-wheel-drive vehicles, heated swimming pools, recording studios in converted barns and, for those not in recovery, vodka and tonics in a picturesque country pub with the local hearties.

The Swan at Chiddingfold even has Queen's Roger Taylor as its major investor, and two of the four owners of the Lickfold Inn, in nearby Lickfold, are the managers of Genesis and Pink Floyd. Their involvement is not advertised, however, so don't come looking for Roger Dean menu covers and rock-star paraphernalia. At the Lickfold, the only instruments on view are blunt, agricultural ones on a windowsill in the pub dining room, which is furnished with a handsome assortment of benches and tables more antique-looking than the usual job-lot from another village church or school that's lost its flock to spiritual advisers and prep schools. Look closely and it appears that a lot of money has been spent to seem as if it hasn't, though details like the Molton Brown products in the ladies' loo give away the Marie Antoinette's dairy character of this impeccably tasteful take on a country pub.

With white tablecloths and pictures of spaniels and soldiers, The Swan is putting its neck even more on the line with what it calls an Edwardian dining room. The menu's that much more fancy-sounding, too. Warm cracknel salad using Parma ham for crackling? How wasteful, chided our house-husband friend who keeps a stricter eye on the budget than most of the neighbours. They'd also splashed out on the balsamic vinegar in a squid, chorizo and rocket salad, again showing a disregard for local produce but a knowledge of modern European restaurant assemblies.

This was Sunday lunchtime, when publicans traditionally show Christian charity by putting out bowls of peanuts on the bar; here there were onion bhajees and olives instead. The inevitable beef, well marbled with fat, was more sensitively cooked than usual. The lamb shank, however, took some work to liberate the meat from the bone, although the butter beans underneath weren't too resistant. The mass of vegetables included floppy parsnips and rather hard roast potatoes. Perhaps, as is also traditional for a Sunday, the head chef was having time off.

Two tarts for afters: one filled with fruit crumble and the other chocolate - very fine of its type. These, and the successful salady starters, gave the impression the cooking might be more consistent during the rest of the week, although the spelling wasn't. Surely they mean porcini oil not porcine.

The clientele was not particularly porcine, but as geriatric as the interior design - clearly not there on the off chance that Roger Taylor would drop in to shoot the breeze on a leather Chesterfield in the bar. Their hostility towards our free-range children, though, was more than made up for by lovely waitresses.

The Lickfold Inn was better equipped to cope with the younger generation, and on a Friday lunch at half-term had a range of ages from babes-in-arms upwards. This time I'd got shot of my own, but the well-mannered eight-year-old who came with one companion was tidily sick (before lunch) outside in the car park.

Here, too, they're defying the "buy local" lobby, with blackboard specials of pan-fried foie gras with caramelised onions, and Asian pork belly with pickled cabbage and mash, but scratch the surface, and the kitchen is mostly using good local ingredients, cooking them soundly and adding a smattering of imports.

So you'll get crispy duck pancake, but with home-made plum chutney. My starter of scallops had a homely base - buttery shredded leeks with bacon - with four just-blackened scallops; goat's cheese crostini, with wild mushrooms, frisee and pinenuts was bubbling-brown cheese on toast, and parsnip soup was as cockle-warming as the cracking fire in the inglenook. Shame the "Italian-style breads baked daily in our wood-fired oven" were cold enough to have come from the fridge rather than the oven that morning.

The underlying neo-yeoman heartiness is emphasised by the size of the main courses. Portions are profligate, as you might expect when profit is probably not the owners' only motive. There was so much liver on a mound of mashed potato and bacon that it was hard to believe it was calf's and not lamb's. Smoked-fish pie seemed to include the extravagant (and unnecessary) addition of tuna. "You can tell this place is owned by four millionaires," said the child's mother, outfaced by its richness. Skate, so fresh and in so much brown butter it could have swum away, with capers and sage leaves, also put paid to the idea of anything else, though the sickly child recovered enough to refuse to share his sticky-toffee pudding.

To return to the unforgettable lyrics of "Killer Queen". Guaranteed to blow your mind? Not quite. But for the pounds 25 that each pub charged for lunch, the Lickfold particularly is recommended at the price

The Swan, Petworth Road, Chiddingfold, Surrey (01428 682073). Tue-Sun lunch, Tue-Sat dinner. Average pounds 20 without drinks. Mastercard and Visa. The Lickfold Inn, Lickfold, near Lodsworth, Petworth (01798 861285). Tue- Sun lunch and dinner in pub, Wed-Sat dinner in restaurant. Average pounds 18.50 in pub, pounds 25 in restaurant. Amex, Mastercard, Visa accepted.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Financial Controller

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an experienced Fina...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales / New Business Development / Full or Part Time

    £20000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global Events and Exhibiti...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Designer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity for someone wi...

    Recruitment Genius: Building Manager / Head Porter

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

    Day In a Page

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific